The Hermitage Golf Course is situated in the Barony of Newcastle and the District of Esker (Eiscear Riada) or the Sandy Ridge, approximately one mile from the village of Lucan in West County Dublin. The Esker forms portion of a natural post ice-age ridge that with little interruption stretches East-West from Dublin to Galway, and is frequently mentioned in early Irish literature.About the year 150 AD, as a result of a treaty, it marked an early division of Ireland into Conn’s half and Mogh’s Half. The Ridge of Esker is traceable about one mile south and south-west of the area of the club.
The ruined Castle of Ballyowen, which is due south of the clubhouse was in 1650 the residence of a Jacobite family named Nottingham who suffered forfeiture of their property about 1690, after the Revolution. That castle and the neighbouring Castle of Ballydowd appear to have been the principal residences in the district.
The next residence of importance, was erected about the year 1700 and was occupied by Major General Robert Napier, an early branch of the Napier family of Lough Crewe, County Meath. About 1740 the place was passed to the Hon. Robert Butler, M.P. for Belturbet. Sir Lucius O’Brien (Lord Inchiquin) became the owner about 1780 to be followed by the Hon. James Fitzgerald in 1798.
In 1818 Robert Brennan was in occupation, and Lord Sherborne, the owner, “sold the townland, tenements, hereditaments and premises” to him for the sum of £8,400, consisting of 139 acres, 3 roods and 6 perches, Irish Plantation measurements (including four and a half Irish acres of the river Liffey), the centre of the river forming part of the townland boundary. In 1835 the ownership was bought out by the Kingsmill family of Merrion Square, Dublin, for £10,350. Sir John Kingsmill converted a turnpike outside the walls to an entrance gate and built the avenue from the gate to the House. Bruce Kingsmill, a grandson, was born in 1866, and in 1873 the property came under the jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor.
Three years later, one Miss Kenny became a tenant of the “dwelling-house, pleasure grounds, orchard and fields, known as the garden field, containing 11 acres 2 roods.” The remains of the stables can still be seen in the distance on the left from the 14th tee and on the left of the 18th green, an area which houses the course machinery nowadays.
The Crozier family acquired the fee simple interest of Bruce Kingsmill in 1885, and they were to become very much involved in the leasing of their land to the golf club in 1905.
Geography & Geology
The lands of Hermitage Golf club and the surrounding district are of great geological and geographical interest. Petrifying springs in the area were listed in Rutty’s “Mineral Waters of Ireland” a volume published in 1757. The Spa waters of nearby Lucan are well known. This Spa was held to be one of the most valuable of its class in Europe. The waters contained sulphuretted hydrogen and carbonic acid. But it is not generally known that about the year 1750 a spring of tepid water and several springs with petrifying tendencies were discovered at Hermitage in low ground by the side of the river Liffey. The petrifying springs, we are told, “distil from rocks of limestone abounding in that neighbourhood and form a stoney encrustation.” Not so long ago, such a happening occurred on the 8th fairway where three separate springs coursed down from the tee and this led to a lot of winter flooding half way down the 8th fairway. Paddy Gunning, the club professional at the time, discovered and with the help of the ground staff traced these springs and drained them through a single pipe which conducted the water into the woods very close to the right of the 9th tee and from there down to the River Liffey. Another such spring still meanders down from the woods to the back of the 13th tee where it is carried away to an underground pipe which drains it into the Liffey. Indeed it is probable that the entire district from Hermitage to Lucan contains springs, either undiscovered or long since forgotten. Even today the Spas and “boiling springs” have a medicinal value equal to those of many well known English and Continental resorts.
A hundred metres or so to the right of the summer 10th green is another curious geological phenomenon. For a distance of two or three hundred metres the quarter mile range of tall woodland trees that runs parallel to the 9th fairway descends towards the river and ends abruptly in a precipitous cliff-like formation of limestone overhanging the Liffey. Here is to be seen the Hermit’s Cell, fashioned by nature. Whether the occupant was an Anchorite of the post-Patrician centuries or merely an eccentric recluse of a much later period cannot now be ascertained, but the legend remains and the dimly remembered Hermit loaned his state and description to Hermitage House.